Blog Archives for April 2015

Impressively Slippery

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 30, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

No Morning Heresy tomorrow, folks. Please feel free to make your own dumb jokes about Dr. Oz and James Inhofe while I'm away. 

Skeptical Inquirer has just posted a really interesting magazine piece by Ryan Shaffer on the late fake-psychic Sylvia Browne, her claims to have done "detective work," and the very real criminal investigation of her activities:

In particular, the government was interested in Browne and an unknown person using “fraudulent documents, including income tax returns and financial statements to enhance her net worth in making these loan applications” (FBI Document 29A-SF-10056 1989). Browne then used the “loan proceeds to support an extravagant lifestyle.” 

Here comes the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the born-Jewish-raised-Catholic-not-really-all-that-religious socialist. 

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Ingersoll on Vivisection

Access Points with Timothy Binga
April 29, 2015

In August, 2014, the Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative conference was held at the Center for Inquiry. During that event, I was photographed showing Susan Jacoby a letter that Ingersoll wrote about vivisection (the image can be seen on Jacoby’s Wikipedia page). Vivisection is the practice of performing operations on live animals for the purposes of research.

Some As-Yet Unimagined Catastrophe

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 29, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Alan Levinovitz at Wired profiles the journey back from alt-med devotion by two parents with two autistic sons:

After months of soul-searching, Jim Laider took to the internet to announce his “de-conversion” from alternative medicine—a kind of penance, but also a warning to others. “I had this guilt to expunge,” Jim says. “I helped to promote this nonsense, and I didn’t want other people to fall for it like I did.” 

CBS Sunday Morning relies on our own Joe Nickell to lend skeptical perspective to a woman's claim that her husband's ghost is hanging around. 

3 Comments

“Woman in Gold”: A Nickell-odeon Review

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
April 28, 2015

Simply put, Woman in Gold is the story of Maria Altmann who—her family’s paintings having been stolen by the Nazis—seeks to reclaim a particularly famous one from the Austrian national art museum that “owns” it.

They Said That Queens Could Stay, They Blew the Bronx Away

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 28, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Point of Inquiry this week has the one and only Peter Singer, talking with Josh Zepps about using reason to answer questions about morality and doing the most good possible. Please enjoy this duet of Australian accents.

Today SCOTUS hears arguments in the big same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. HodgesCFI submitted its amicus brief on the case with the American Humanist Association back in March.

John Oliver goes after Dr. Oz. Good stuff. 

Dr. Saurabh Jha at Quartz says we more or less get the Oz we deserve...

The Multi-Zayn Theory

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 27, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

WIVB television in Buffalo quotes our testimony to the FDA in a story on the regulation of homeopathic products.

Pakistani human rights activist Sabeen Mahmud is gunned down by unknown assailants immediately following an event for her campaign on behalf of those abducted by Pakistan's security forces. 

6 Comments

Dr. Oz Accuses Critics of Trying to Silence Him

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
April 24, 2015

Superstar TV personality Dr. Oz, after nearly a year of being criticized for promoting unproven "miracle" products and medical misinformation on his popular daytime TV show, has fired back at his critics.

65 Million Dollars of Belief

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 24, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

I went on HuffPost Live yesterday, along with other smart folks that included CSI Fellow Steven Novella, to talk about the Oz Imbroglio, just as Oz's own coworkers pen an op-ed saying not to fire the guy, but to maybe regulate him a bit. On my own blog iMortal, I posit that the last few months have been pretty good for exposing science denial for the crap that it is. 

The Charleston Gazette editorializes against Oz-like TV pitchmen, and cites the latest special issue of Skeptical Inquirer.

2 Comments

Oztroversy

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 23, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Dr. Oz is apparently about to come out swinging. He'll address his critics on his show today, and I don't get cable so I'll just have to wait for it. Alas. He also has an op-ed at Time where he defends himself, and will do little to make the skeptical community feel any better about him:

When I interview an unusual or interesting person on my show, often it’s expository or out of fascination—not to tell my audience they should see a psychic instead of their primary care physician. ... Critics often imply that any exploration of alternative methods means abandoning conventional approaches. It does not. In fact, many institutions like mine use the names “complementary” or “integrative” medicine, which is also appropriate. 

I'll be going on HuffPost Live today at about 3:20pm ET to talk about the Oztroversy, hosted by Point of Inquiry's Josh Zepps.

2 Comments

An Essence of Naysaying

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 22, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

CFI's Michael De Dora did more excellent media work yesterday on the FDA homeopathy hearings, as a guest on L.A. NPR affiliate KPCC's AirTalk, along with a rather uninspiring homeopath for "balance." His work was also covered by PulseFDA News, the Health Day newswire (here in the Philly Inquirer), Discovery News via our own Ben Radford, and at the journal Science:

“By its own definition, homeopathy cannot work,” Michael De Dora, director of public policy at the nonprofit Center for Inquiry’s Washington, D.C., branch, told the panel in his Monday presentation. Several large metastudies, including a recent analysis by the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia, have concluded that homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebos for treating any condition. “We need not spend much time on this,” De Dora said, “as the federal government is well aware of the scientific evidence against homeopathy.” 

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The Wizardry of Oz

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
April 21, 2015

 

1 Comment

Well Played, Lions

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 21, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Michael De Dora was a guest on NPR's To the Point with Warren Olney yesterday, discussing the FDA hearings on homeopathy in which he gave testimony. The Washington Examiner notes Michael's efforts, and The Guardian checks in with CFI-L.A.'s Jim Underdown for comment.

Meanwhile, CFI-Michigan's Jennifer Beahan weighs in on a controversy over the Bible verse at an Ottawa County park, at The Detroit News.

1 Comment

Don’t Worry: Be Unhappy

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
April 20, 2015

The modern cult of happiness worships positive thinking as the means to a fulfilled life, and has spawned entire industries ranging from pharmaceuticals to self-help empires. Recent science purported to support the notion that happiness, or the number of positive thoughts we have, is somehow tightly linked to empirically measurable success in life. This science has been shown to be flawed, and the entire thesis that suggests that happiness is vital to the good life is philosophically suspect.

There Are Lots of Quacks Out There

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 20, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

What'd you miss the last couple weeks? Probably lots, 'cause we're so crazy busy. Here's the latest Cause & Effect newsletter

CFI's Michael De Dora testified this morning at the FDA's hearings on the regulation and marketing of homeopathic products (original announcement here), and really was an all-too-rare voice of reason and science in a room full of pseudoscience promoters. He totally knocked it out of the park, like BAM! BAM! You know? Anyway, here's Michael's written testimony. Hemant gives us kudos. NPR previews the hearings with input from CSI Fellow Steven Novella

2 Comments

An Otherwise Ambiguous Practice

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 17, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

The FDA is going to hold public hearings on homeopathy and guess who's been invited to be the voice of reason? Us!

Michael De Dora took part in a discussion on religious freedom at the Newseum last night, and I think it's supposed to be viewable here, but it's not loading for me, so I dunno.

Theologian Milt Hankins opines at the Herald-Dispatch about changing moral standards, and cites with some astonishment Ron Lindsay's book The Necessity of Secularism.

1 Comment

Unpalatable Conclusions

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 16, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Canada's Supreme Court shows up their U.S. counterpart by ruling against prayer at government assemblies

At The Week, Peter Weber looks to an America 35 years from now in which the unaffiliated make up one quarter of the population. 

The oldest tools ever discovered are found in Kenya, dating back 3.3 million years -- 700,000 years earlier than the previous oldest-known tools. 

Seven Whooping Coughs for Seven Brothers

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 15, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Our boss Ron Lindsay addresses the practice of evaluating teacher performance based on students' test scores, "a policy not based on science, but rather politics and deceptive intuitions." 

Also at the Free Thinking blog, CFI-UK director Stephen Law does a deep dive into concepts of happiness and how (or whether) it motivates our behavior. Me, I'm mostly motivated by anxiety. But you should also read Jennifer Michael Hecht's The Happiness Myth. I need to read it again, because it's gangbusters.

We Should Not Evaluate Teachers Based on Student Test Scores

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
April 15, 2015

We at the Center for Inquiry don’t typically address how best to evaluate teacher performance, but we are an educational institution. Moreover, we’re an institution that is committed to basing public policy on sound science. Using student test scores to determine teacher pay or whether a teacher should retain a job is a policy not based on science, but rather politics and deceptive intuitions.

2 Comments

Is Feeling Good Always What Motivates Us?

The Outer Limits with Stephen Law
April 14, 2015

Here’s an introduction to some of the most fascinating philosophical issues about happiness. We look at three key questions:

 

Is happiness just about feeling good, or is there more to it than that?

 

Is feeling good always what motivates us? And:

 

Is increasing happiness always morally the right thing to do?

Walter Peck, Forgotten Hero

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 14, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

A very different and fun episode of Point of Inquiry is out, where Josh Zepps interviews both Bassem Youssef ("the Egyptian Jon Stewart") and comedian Ahmed Ahmed together. 

Speaking of Point of Inquiry, we've now got two special episodes up relating to the Reason for Change conference in June, with Phil Zuckerman and Leighann Lord. I assume you're making your plans? Register now! 

The Curiosity rover discovers that Mars is briny. There is honest to goodness liquid water beneath the surface!

Now a Second “Human Torch” Baby

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
April 13, 2015

A bizarre case has become even more bizarre as burns from alleged “spontaneous human combustion” (SHC)—inflicted on a baby boy from rural India in 2013—have now been followed by similar burns on his newly born brother!

Filmmaker Mike Celestino on Edgy Comedy and Pop Culture Skeptics

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
April 13, 2015

Los Angeles-based filmmaker Michael ("Mike") Celestino is a skeptic, film buff, and comedy fan. The bespectacled and slight bemused writer/director agreed to answer some questions about his recent projects, including his planned documentary "The Scully."

Prayerfunding on Kneelstarter

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 13, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

We've got more people to kick around for the 2016 presidential race. Hillary Clinton announced yesterday with a pretty smart video, and RNS has some tidbits on her relationship with religion. Marco Rubio is probably announcing later today, and RNS has a tip sheet on how his faith contains multitides: Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, and who knows what else. 

We've also got Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee, who Philip Eil I think unfairly calls the "weirdest" candidate (I assume he's aware of Ted "Three Toddlers Stacked" Cruz). I'd just say he's one of the less charasmatic. Anyway, he's good on church-state separation stuff.

Squeezing into Increasingly Smaller Gaps

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 10, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

I broke a lamp in the new house that my wife really likes, which is why the Heresy is late today. You all, my wonderful wife especially, have my apologies.

Also, the college play I'm directing opens tonight, and I'm 99% certain none of them read or even know about this blog, but I will take this opportunity nonetheless to tell them that I'm so freaking proud of them, and they're going to kick a lot of theatrical ass tonight. 

Soooooo anything else interesting going on no okay let's get on with the links.

Hemant Mehta Did Not “Endorse” a Hate Forum

No Faith Value with Ronald A. Lindsay
April 09, 2015

As I’ve announced, I’m leaving CFI in December. Wish I could say that in the seven years I’ve been with CFI as president, the level of discourse in the atheist/skeptic community has improved. But I can’t say that. If anything, it may have become worse.

177 Comments

“Miracle” of “Jesus” in Mud

Investigative Briefs with Joe Nickell
April 09, 2015

Caused by heavy rain, a mudslide on a remote Colombian hillside has revealed an apparent image of a face many believe is that of Jesus. Appearing on Saturday, March 21 (a week and a half before Palm Sunday), the mud Christ drew the attention of media (ah) muckrakers who mostly treated it with amusement.

Sporadic Bursts of Happiness and Misery

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 09, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

It's April 9 and it's snowing here in Maine. Not only is global warming a hoax, but aliens are also controlling the lizard people in the White House who engineered 9/11 and have duped us all about it through the use of chemtrails. 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is found guilty of the Boston Marathon bombing. 

In Malawi the police have been given orders to shoot anyone attacking albinos. Why are people attacking albinos? Glad you asked. Their body parts are used in black magic, you see. Also, the year is apparently 600 AD in Malawi.

1 Comment

Indiana and the Legal Landscape for LGBT Rights

Guest Blog from Nicholas Little
April 08, 2015

It appears that Indiana has realized that discriminatory laws are unpopular with the business community, and is backpedalling post-haste to clarify that, despite its ongoing fight against same sex marriage rights, the rhetoric of the law’s sponsors, and the invitation of a series of anti-gay bigots to the signing ceremony, the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was never intended to allow for discrimination against the gay community.

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Welcome Back, Brontosaurus

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 08, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Where's the Heresy been? Well, your Morning Heretic was off for a couple of days to move into a new house, and it took some doing. But I'm back. What'd I miss?

More importantly, what'd you miss? Check out last week's Cause & Effect newsletter to see what CFI has been up to.

Here's a thing: Rand Paul announced his candidacy for president. Kimberly Winston has a good set of bullet points on Paul's confusing relationship with religion

Against Engineerism

Guest Blog from David R. Koepsell
April 07, 2015

We should be on guard against the intellectual trap of scientism, which is the view that science and its methods can provide us with answers to any human problem. Moreover, we should be also wary of "engineerism," which is a widely-adopted, similar point of view that says that any problem faced by humanity can be engineered out of existence.

10 Comments

The Post Hoc Fallacy: Vaccine Fears and Roosevelt-Menacing Indians

A Skeptic Reads the Newspaper with Benjamin Radford
April 06, 2015

I recently read Candice Miller's book The River of Doubt, about Theodore Roosevelt's 1914 exploration of an unknown river in the Brazilian Amazon. It's a fascinating story of adventure, misadventure, murder, and more. In the book I also found an excellent real-life example of one of my favorite logical fallacies: post hoc ergo propter hoc, also called faulty causation.

Not So Fast, Nones

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 03, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

The U.S. and Iran reach a deal on Iran's nuclear program. Catch up on the background of this decades-long conflict with our Point of Inquiry episode with David Crist.  

Bill Nye and Bon Jovi will be doing Rutgers commencements, and I just like that this piece associates Nye with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry right up front. Bon Jovi, please return my calls.

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Proud of My State—Indiana

Picture by Reba Wooden, poster by Freedom Indiana

Freethought from the Heartland with Reba Boyd Wooden
April 03, 2015

I have lived in Indiana all of my life and I am very proud of my state. I have traveled pretty extensively in my adult life but there is no other place I would rather call home than Indiana and especially Indianapolis. As Executive Director of Center for Inquiry-Indiana, I meet many people from out-of-state who have the impression that Indiana is a backward state. I find myself in the position of having to defend my state many times.

 

It May Be Legal, But it Ain’t Right

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 02, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

Arkansas passes its own Indiana-style right-to-discriminate bill, but GOP governor Asa Hutchinson refuses to sign, thanks it part to pressure from businesses like Wal-Mart, and even NASCAR. Whoa, NASCAR? Even God is surprised by that one:

"NASCAR Decries Indiana Anti-Gay Law". And when NASCAR calls you homophobic, you are homo-friggin'-phobic. 

David Letterman, a native Hoosier, can't even believe how backward the RFRA law is. “It may be legal, but it ain’t right.”

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What RFRA Sowed, the Nation Reaps

Advocatus Diaboli with Tom Flynn
April 01, 2015

First Indiana, now Arkansas have passed "religious freedom" bills that will protect Christians who discriminate on religious grounds. This is a predictable result of the 1993 federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a regrettable law whose beneficiaries are now (in the wake of the disastrous Hobby Lobby decision) free to unleash all the unconstitutional mischief that this ill-considered legislation always portended.

5 Comments

Cruel Hearts, Arrogant Souls, and Warped Logic

The Morning Heresy with Paul the Morning Heretic
April 01, 2015

The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.      

I've been practicing rolling my eyes and making indignant, above-it-all faces just to get through today, April Fools' Day, when the whole Internet thinks every absurd lie is hilarious and totally worth your time. I'm ready!! But here's a promise: This is an April Fools'-free Morning Heresy.

Kimberly Winston reports on the reaction to the murder of yet another Bangladeshi atheist blogger, Washiqur Rahman, including our statement and response from Asif Mohiuddin, who knew Rahman personally.

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